March 21st, 2012
12:52 PM ET

Florida shooting: What we know about Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman

The death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen who was shot while walking in his neighborhood in Sanford, Florida, has sparked allegations of racial profiling and calls for the gunman to be charged.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI will investigate the incident. George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who has acknowledged shooting Martin, has not been charged and says it was self-defense. The incident has sparked widespread debate about Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law as well as numerous protests in Martin's honor.

As the story continues to grip the nation, here's what is we know about the key people in this story and why both families believe their sons have become victims.

Trayvon Martin and his family

Trayvon Martin, 17, was killed after he went to the store for candy and a soft drink.  In the wake of his death, his parents have sought to make sure the world does not forget their son, and they have asked for justice to be served by calling for Zimmerman's arrest.

"He was into sports. He loved playing football. He loved watching football. He loved basketball," his mother, Sybrina Fulton, told CNN. "He loved to eat everything in your house. He loved music. He loved kids. He loved to babysit and wash cars and (was) just a normal kid."

Brian Paz, Martin's friend, told CNN affiliate WFTV that he will miss having Trayvon around.

"He was a happy, smart person," Paz said. "He was joyful."

Paz told WFTV that his friend was a peaceful kid. And that is why he finds it so confusing that Zimmerman thought he was threatening when he noticed him walking in the neighborhood and began to follow him.

"He's a peaceful person," Paz said. "He was actually really quiet when he didn't know a person, so I wouldn't describe him as threatening."

There's not one thing in particular Paz said he will miss about his friend - it is everything.

"Chilling with him every weekend, just having him around me," he said. "That's what I'm going to miss about him."

Trayvon's parents say the whole incident has been devastating.

"The whole world sees this is a tragedy," Tracy Martin, the boy's father, told CNN. "It's sad as a father to have to bury your child. As a parent, you never want to imagine about burying your kids, and for me to have to bury my son is sad."

And they hope they will find justice soon. Their cries for an arrest sparked a social media movement to try to draw attention to the case.

"I'm so very hurt, but this whole situation is a nightmare, and I don't understand why this man has not been arrested - ­ at least charged - and let a judge and jury decide if he is guilty," his mother said at a press conference.

Trayvon's family said they believe race was a factor in his death, fueling an outcry in the racially mixed community 16 miles northeast of Orlando.

"If Trayvon had did the shooting, he would've been arrested," his father said. "He would've been arrested on the spot."

George Zimmerman

Not much is known about the man at the helm of the neighborhood watch group and at the center of the shooting controversy. Zimmerman has remained quiet as the story has reached critical mass.

Zimmerman, 28, saw Trayvon in his neighborhood and called 911 to report a suspicious man, authorities said.

"Something's wrong with him. Yep. He's coming to check me out," Zimmerman told a police dispatcher in a 911 call released Monday. "He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is. Send officers over here."

The teen started to run, Zimmerman reported. When he said he was following, the dispatcher told him, "We don't need you to do that."

Shortly afterward, neighbors began calling 911 to report a fight, then a gunshot. By the time police arrived, Trayvon was dead. Zimmerman insisted that he was acting in self-defense when he shot the teen.

In a police report, Officer Timothy Smith said Zimmerman stated he was "yelling for someone to help me," but the victim's family said it was the teen asking for help.

The death has sparked allegations that Zimmerman took Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law too far by chasing after the teen. Police added that while it was suggested Zimmerman not chase him, it is "not a lawful order that Mr. Zimmerman would be required to follow."

"Mr. Zimmerman was not acting outside the legal boundaries of Florida Statute by carrying his weapon when this incident occurred," Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said in a newly released statement about the investigation. "He was in fact on a personal errand in his vehicle when he observed Mr. Martin in the community and called the Sanford Police Department."

Lee added that Zimmerman had a permit for the weapon he was carrying.

Zimmerman had called police several times in the past few years to describe similar circumstances in which he believed someone in the area might be up to no good. When he called police on the night of the shooting, he said there had been a history of break-ins in the area.

Zimmerman's family has denied allegations that race played a role in the shooting, saying he has many minority relatives and friends. In a statement to the Orlando Sentinel, his father said Zimmerman grew up in a multiracial family. A police report describes him as a white male, but his family says he is Hispanic. CNN has made numerous attempts to contact Zimmerman but has been unsuccessful.

The 28-year-old is currently enrolled as a part-time student at Seminole State College, according to Jay Davis, the director of communications and media relations at Seminole State. Davis said records indicate Zimmerman was a general education student pursuing a two-year associate's degree.

Zimmerman has moved out of his home after receiving death threats, according to his father's statement to the Orlando Sentinel.

“The tragic events of February 26 are very sad for all concerned. The Martin family, our family and the entire community have been forever changed," Robert Zimmerman said.

He also strongly disputed the characterization of his son following the incident.

"The portrayal of George Zimmerman in the media, as well as the series of events that led to the tragic shooting, are false and extremely misleading. Unfortunately, some individuals and organizations have used this tragedy to further their own causes and agendas," his father said in the letter to the newspaper. "George is a Spanish-speaking minority with many black family members and friends. He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever. One black neighbor recently interviewed said she knew everything in the media was untrue and that she would trust George with her life.

"Another black neighbor said that George was the only one, black or white, who came and welcomed her to the community, offering any assistance he could provide. Recently, I met two black children George invited to a social event. I asked where they met George. They responded that he was their mentor. They said George visited them routinely, took them places, helped them, and taught them things and that they really loved George. The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth."

Frank Taaffe, a neighbor and friend of Zimmerman, told HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell that his friend was only inquiring about why Martin was in the area, considering there had been documented incidents involving young black men in the neighborhood committing crimes. But he insisted that in no way did Zimmerman target Martin.

“Zimmerman is not a racist," he told Velez-Mitchell. "George Zimmerman is a caring man.”

Robert Zimmerman also added that in no way did his son confront Martin and he hopes soon that everyone will be outraged by how his son has been treated. He said he and the family will have no further statements.

soundoff (446 Responses)
  1. jayebl

    Many people are make a lot of comments about thier opinion of what happen. I just pray that Trayvon Martin parents don't read are listen to the negative comments on here. I just pray that Jesus keeps them in his arm and carry them through this diffcult time. As a father of a 17 year and 6 year old I couldn't fathom the thought of going a day without seeing them. To have your child taking away would be very hurtful and horrorable experience anyone would have to go through no matter what the race, gender, complexion, or etc. So in the future please spare the parents of Trayvon with stupidty comment about he deserve to loses his life.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jayebl

    @ Jake he was going home. Ihope this answer your question but does it really matter what he was doing, it wasn't a cause for him to lose his life. Just pray for both family that Jesus help them through.

    March 24, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. Ng

    It is absolutely flooring that in 2012, an individual still has the convenience of acting out a racist impulse without expedient consequence. It is my continued observation and overall belief that blatant racism in America still exists; and that African-Americans will never be regarded as “equals”. In general, these sinister participants and supporters continue to present a significant poor job of camouflaging their racism.


    March 25, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wendy

      You need to stop hiding behind the word racisim. It is not alive and well, only when it suits your argument. When any tragedy befalls a member of the black community, and the perpetrator is of another race, you cry racisim. What is it when it is black on black crime? It is still a tragedy no matter what the race is. I have seen many a racist act perpetrated by members of the black community. They just dont get the press time that you get. Hate is hate, no matter who the perpetrator is. You need to get your hate and your excuses in check.

      March 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • george

      Wow, you sure are good at explaining what a person did with absolutely no evidence. You ever see the video of the woman who falls into the fountain while talking on the cel phone? Would you say she was acting like she was high or drunk? If Treyvor was driving a car to and from the store, do you think any of this would have happened? It's a tragic string of events, much like a plane crash, where if any of the events are changed, the outcome changes. Had Treyvor only said "I'm trying to find my dad's girlfriend's house" it sounds like George was the kind of guy who would have helped him. Whatever possessed Treyvor to attack George, when he was clearly trying to get back to his vehicle was the last straw. Had George not followed the letter of the law and had actually threatened Trevor with his pistol, I can't imagine Treyvor would have attacked him. So George follows the law and Treyvor doesn't, and you want to hang who?

      March 29, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Robert Gilbert

    Trayvon is not the little boy you show. He is 6ft 2 a rugged football player. You join the crucify him mob when you continue to show that picture,. For shame that you did not present the full story, Have lost faith in CNN

    March 26, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Wendy

      I have noticed that the pictures they show are of a little boy, not a 17 year old. No one will ever know what really happened because there is only one person to tell their side of the story. It is tragic on all accounts. The man made a horrible mistake. He will suffer the consequences for it.

      March 26, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vicki

      It doesn't matter how big he was... .I lost my 17 year old son several years ago and he was 6'2", 175 pounds.... he will always be my little boy. My heart breaks for his mother and family. I can't image what she must feel like, knowing that her precious son was murdered because he was (perhaps) tall, carrying a bag of Skittles, a can of tea and a cell phone on him in a gated neighborhood. Zimmerman was an adult, Martin just a child – Zimmerman precipitated this and followed through on it – his terrible actions have destroyed many people.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rob

    Strange that a person can follow someone point a gun at a person. And if the person who was just walking home, defends himself gets kill, while the other person with the gun claims self defense... Got it...

    So white people do not break into house or rob someone... Wondering how many of his calls to the police had been about a white person with a hoody

    March 26, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. marvin henson

    zimmermans dad same as said he was a coward.does every fist fight have to end in death?

    March 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Matt

    How does an obese hispanic guy catch up, on foot, to an in shape high school football player? If Trayvon was continuing to run, there is no way George Zimmerman would have caught up to him.

    March 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      He was following in his car at first.

      March 27, 2012 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Scottish Mama

    Did anyone think that Trayvon was afraid, thought he was being followed, saw the gun and Trayvon was defended himself?

    March 27, 2012 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama


      March 27, 2012 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jan

    I believe the boy is dead because Zimmerman, the would be police man, was over zealous in persuing the boy. The conversations he was having with the police while he was observing Trayvon weren't even accurate. He was over reacting all the way. Whether his actions had anything to do with the boys race, I don't know but I do believe the boy died needlessly because of a gung ho would be cop. He may have felt he was protecting the neighborhood but it appears from all accounts that he made a sinister character out of a boy returning from the store with candy and ice tea. Then the police didn't really investigate because Zimmerman was backed by a few of the local residents. They didn't ask any questions of anyone else who may have seen or heard anything other than what Zimmerman said about the situation. I don't feel any smpathy for Zimmerman and I feel even less for the police involved. It was their job to investigate. They failed to do so. It took them days to find out who the boy was although he lived right there in the community. Their handling of htis case was wrong. They gave no consideration to this boy or his family. This is inexcusable. By their actions they showed the boys death meant nothing to them. So why are they and Zimmerman so surprised that this nation and other parts of the world would be outraged by their indifference to the death of a kid? Until the parents actively started trying to find out the truth that they were denied, they were all in agreement. It was a cear case of self defense. IN fact, it was so clear in their minds that they didn't investigate any other angle. This is the problem I have with the whole thing. A lack of participation by the very people whorn to protect the innocent. Let's hope the state athorities and the Feds do a better job.

    March 27, 2012 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
    • E Warren

      Jan, this is it, in a nut shell. Forget race (*although as a Black male, I don't have that luxury*). He followed the kid even when told not to by the dispatcher. He got out of his safe secure vehicle to chase this kid. Never once did he identify himself as neighborhood watch, security or any other authority to Treyvon. I can't say for sure, but I believe IF Zimmerman got beat up, Treyvon stopped running, turned to face the person that was chasing him and went into fight mode. He beat Zimmerman out of fear and anger. Zimmerman shot Treyvon. Zimmerman's claim of self defense is invalid because you can only use that claim when you are the one being followed, chased or attached.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ron

    Was Trayvon EVER in trouble, Did he EVER smoke or take drugs??? I am sure you will find the answer Yes to both of those questions. Trayvon thought he was a tough guy with this hoodie and swagger......." hey F this guy, I will knock him on his a ss"...didnt work out that way and he got shot...Next?

    March 29, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roberto

      So in your world if a person got into trouble, and acted like a tough guy, that is enough of a verdict that he deserves to die? Wow! You amaze me. Maybe one day if you ever find yourself given a bad name simply to justify a hanging, you will understand why it is imprudent, if not outright dangerous, to look at things with prejudiced perspectives. Ever heard of the golden rule? With your position, you are impliedly saying that it will be OK if somebody turned you or a loved one into a "Trayvon Martin" and persecuted you. Let's hope you would be consistent then with your logic!

      March 31, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bitorbite

    The news should report that Zimmerman saw Trayvon in "their" neighborhood – not his, implying that the neighborhood belonged to George exclusively.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. Nath Taylor

    Why should the public be outraged about Zimmerman's being brought to the attention of the Public. If there is any outrage it is the fact that Trayvon Martin a young teenager is Dead. That is the Outrage! The incompetent Stanford Police Dept let a murder go free, why? That is more Outrage!

    April 7, 2012 at 5:48 am | Report abuse |
  13. l. soyer

    They will never make a "second degree murder" stick.-i think they may wind up " With a "self defense" or even a "ompromised" manslaughter verdict.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
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    April 12, 2012 at 3:53 am | Report abuse |
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